Confronting Misconceptions: The Axiom of UN Women in War Zones
In the complex and often harrowing landscape of global conflict, the 2023 Israel – Hamas armed conflict in and around the Gaza Strip is no exception and distressing for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, commonly known as UN Women. The charge of UN Women stands as a monumental symbol of hopefulness and empowerment of all matters of inclusion, equity and equality for women and girls. Equally, this forerunner organization, dedicated to advocating for gender equality and supporting women and girls all-encompassing every conflict zone, faces unjust criticism that not only undermines its efforts but correspondingly belittles the grave challenges faced in these regions.
From the perspective of an international gender equality advocate and human trafficking expert that identifies what devastation bears in resemble and hopes to dispel misconceptions and highlight the important, but often underappreciated work of UN Women in conflict-ridden regions in order to dispel misconceptions. It is essential to critically examine the myriad challenges faced by women and girls in countries such as Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gaza, Israel, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria. These nations, grappling with the devastating impacts of wars or regional conflicts, present a complex landscape where gender-based violence and the displacement of women and girls occur at alarming rates require comprehensive inquires and investigations.
UN Women’s December statement, unequivocally condemning the attacks by Hamas on Israel on October 7, underscores a broader commitment to addressing comprehensive research on gender-based atrocities. This stance is particularly significant given the disturbing prevalence of sexual violence in conflict zones. The United Nations Security Council Report S/2020/487, for example, offers insights into the gender-specific impacts of armed conflicts, including the deliberate use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and terror. UN Women’s condemnation of the attacks by Hamas aligns with the organization’s ongoing efforts to draw attention to and combat the pervasive issue of sexual violence in conflict situations, as highlighted within the report.
The role model of UN Women as the “global champion” titleholder for gender equality is underscored by its ongoing efforts in these conflict zones. The organization’s approach extends beyond advocacy, encompassing direct intervention and support programs. Notably, UN Women contributes to the peace processes that address the root causes of conflict, thus playing a paramount function in rebuilding societies. An indispensable aspect of their work involves addressing the disproportionate impact of conflicts on women and girls. For instance, a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) titled “Shelter from the Storm” (2015) highlights the heightened vulnerabilities of women and girls in crisis settings, particularly in terms of increased risks of gender-based violence, loss of livelihoods, and diminished access to healthcare and education.
Since its charge inception in 1976 of this entity, UN Women (established in July 2010) has evolved significantly in, expanding its focus to include not just immediate relief efforts but also long-term strategic planning for gender equality in post-conflict reconstruction. This evolution reflects a growing global consensus on the importance of women’s involvement in peacebuilding and decision-making processes at all levels, as evidenced by the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security.
Despite the severity of these challenges, positive movements are emerging amidst the turmoil. A number of initiatives, such as the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), play a pivotal role in addressing gender issues around the world. While UN Women engages in conflict-related discourse, focusing on gender-based violence. Moreover, supplementary programs focusing on women’s leadership, economic development, humanitarian action, and governance play an imperative function in addressing immediate needs and paving the way for sustainable gender equality, as defined by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations.
In conclusion, the criticism of UN Women in the realm of conflict crisis is not only misguided but correspondingly detrimental to the cause of gender equality. The organization’s efforts in advocating for and advancing the rights and well-being of women and girls in conflict zones are as critical component of the broader strategy to achieve lasting peace and development. It is essential to appreciate and support UN Women’s responsibility in these efforts, acknowledging the complexities and challenges of conflict management while striving for a world where gender equality is a reality.
With solidity and solidarity,
Lady Tee Thompson
UNA Women Affinity Group Chair
The following sources provide detailed insights:
- United Nations Security Council Report S/2020/487 – https://undocs.org/S/2020/487
- UNFPA Report “Shelter from the Storm” (2015) – https://www.unfpa.org/shelter-storm-2015
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 13 -https://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/wps/